The news from the last week has been overwhelming, to say the least. Judges are battling over access to abortion medication, Idaho passed a new law to criminalize people traveling to access abortion care in other states, and a US President was indicted for the first time in US history. Thousands of students in Tennessee are protesting to make schools safer after the school shooting in Nashville, Black Tennessee legislators were expelled for joining them, and now thousands more are taking action to get those legislators reinstated and to defend democracy in Tennessee and beyond.
Our work as rural and small-town Oregonians who care about democracy is cut out for us, and we are heartened by the powerful ways rural and small-town leaders are showing up for democracy every day! Groups across rural Oregon are navigating the uncertain waters leading up to competitive school board elections in early May where the Right hopes to win seats, ban books, attack queer and trans students’ rights, and ultimately undermine public education. At the same time, local leaders are talking to their neighbors about the powerful rural progressive candidates who are ready to advance school curriculum that is honest about history, inclusive of different lived experiences, and upholds racial, economic, and social justice within the walls of every school in the district!
On Saturday, May 20th, more than 100 small-town and rural leaders, organizers, and activists will join together in Albany at the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session to share strategies, learn from each other, and set ROP’s priorities for the year to come, and we want you to be there! Human dignity groups have many irons in the fire, from electoral strategies to make sure their school boards have good representation, to organizing their community’s public pride celebrations, to confronting and countering white supremacist movement building in their communities, to holding local elected officials accountable, and much more! Check out more details below and register your group for the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session by April 22nd for an early bird discount (which also helps us make sure we have plenty of food, chairs, community housing, interpreters, and childcare for everyone to fully participate)!
Could your group use scholarships, community housing, a ride in a carpool, or gas money to help get you to the Caucus this year? Let us know! We are excited to support rural leaders to travel to and participate in the Caucus! Check out the Caucus Frequently Asked Questions page for more information including our COVID safety precautions and event physical accessibility details and email email@example.com if you have any questions!
By popular demand, we’re bringing back our Rural Organizing Intensive on Sunday, May 21st to dive deeper into the skills and strategies rural leaders are hungriest to build! We can’t wait to strategize together in person at this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session on Saturday, May 20th, and build our skills during the Rural Organizing Intensive on Sunday, May 21st! Here are a few of the themes community leaders have made clear we need to cover this year:
Strengthening Local Democracy: School boards, county libraries, and city councils are just a few of the places that have been facing anti-democratic attacks targeting queer and trans students, houseless community members, and people of color. Many human dignity group leaders have wondered, “What is the purpose of making these meetings take seven hours and be nonfunctional? Is it to break local government?” Together, let’s map out the strategies we’re seeing the Right use to derail public infrastructure, debrief and learn about successful school board strategies, and strategize about how we can rebuild our communities’ infrastructure to meet our communities’ needs!
The Promise of Sanctuary: After decades of rural communities organizing for migrant justice and building safe and welcoming communities for all, we won a huge victory in 2021 by writing and passing the Sanctuary Promise Act. The Sanctuary Promise Act strengthens Oregon’s existing Sanctuary Law to make it illegal for local police and sheriffs to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain and deport people. It also creates statewide infrastructure to support families who have been impacted by detention and deportation. Unfortunately, some local law enforcement agencies haven’t heard of the new law, and it’s up to us to make sure they’re following it! Community leaders will share how they are making sure local police and sheriffs are following the new law and working with the community to share information about the resources available through the statewide Sanctuary Promise hotline. Together we will strategize about how we can build off of these victories so everyone can live their lives safely with dignity in rural Oregon and beyond!
Free, Fair, and Funded Community Media: From building and strengthening community radio stations and emerging community newspapers and bloggers bringing awareness and transparency to local government decisions, many folks across the Rural Organizing Project are working to build a stronger democracy through local media. In a moment when our communities feel especially polarized and fragmented, the “facts” we access can contradict the “facts” our neighbors are getting, which makes it all the more difficult to have a conversation about topics from housing to schools, to health care. How can we build and support media that is of, by, and for the people? Let’s find out!
Organizing for Everyone: Leaders new and experienced have requested that we bring back our Organizing for Everyone training! Learn new skills (or dust them off!) and add tools to your toolbox to build rural people power, including how to build a group that makes decisions together and shares the work, planning and running effective rural and small-town campaigns, talking to our neighbors about the issues that matter most to build a base, and the infrastructure groups need to kick ass for the long haul. We are holding a Rural Organizing Intensive on Sunday, May 21st that will include trainings and longer sessions to meet the requests for skill building!
Check out the draft agenda (so far!) for Saturday and Sunday below, and register your group today to save your spot! The early bird discount deadline is April 22nd! Have any questions? Are there ways we can help you and your group get to the Caucus? ROP coordinates carpools, community housing, child care, and interpretation, and we have funding set aside for gas money and scholarships so everyone can fully participate. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page for more details including information about COVID precautions and physical accessibility and email Emma@rop.org if you have any questions! Let’s make a plan!
Saturday, May 20th: Rural Caucus & Strategy Session – the main event!
Rural Caucus & Strategy Session (8:30 am – 5:30 pm):
More than 100 leaders from across Oregon will gather to reflect on the previous year, share strategies and skills, build relationships and analysis, and set our priorities for the year to come. Join us to strategize and strengthen the movement for democracy and justice in rural and small-town Oregon!
ROP’s 30th Anniversary Encore Celebration (5:30 pm until the cows come home!):
Join us for live music, dancing (and a lesson!), dinner, dessert, and amazing company and conversation! Help us ring in our third decade of building a bold and courageous rural movement for justice! While 2022 marked our 30th birthday, last year the Supreme Court struck down Roe the day before the Caucus, so we joined Redmond Collective Action in a demonstration for reproductive justice. This year we’re going to dance until the cows come home!
Sunday, May 21st: Rural Organizing Intensive
Rural Organizing Intensive (9 am – 1 pm):
Hungry to develop new skills and add to your organizer toolbox? Join us for a half-day for leaders and organizers of all experience levels! Choose from one of a few tracks that will help you become a better change maker, and dig in on state-level strategy around immigrant justice, community media, and more! More details coming soon!